Nantes and GOG host crucial games as play-offs conclude
After dominant first-leg wins Telekom Veszprém HC (against their domestic rivals OTP Bank-Pick Szeged) and THW Kiel (against C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti) both have one foot in the doors of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League quarter-finals.
In contrast, two play-off confrontations remain very much undecided. HBC Nantes will have to win the Match of the Week at home against Orlen Wisla Plock in order to progress, after drawing 32:32 last Wednesday in Poland. GOG will start the second leg of the all-Danish confrontation two goals down, after losing to Aalborg Håndbold last week.
PLAY-OFFS, LEG 2
THW Kiel (GER) vs C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU) – first leg 41:28
Wednesday 29 March, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV
- thanks to an early 7:1 run, Kiel took full control in the first leg at Bucharest and finally secured a comfortable 13-goal win (41:28)
- it was the biggest defeat by THW Kiel in his long career for Dinamo’s coach Xavi Pascual, who had previously lost two Champions League finals against the Zebras with Barça
- five players scored six goals each in the first leg: Sander Sagosen, Eric Johansson and Miha Zarabec for Kiel, Stanislav Kasparek and Ante Kuduz for Bucuresti
- the winners of this pairing face Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals – it would potentially be the third consecutive time that Kiel and PSG lock horns for a ticket to Cologne
- Kiel can make it to their 23rd quarter-final in their 25th Champions League season, while Dinamo’s first participation in the play-offs seems to be their final international destination
- thanks to 23 saves – a personal Bundesliga record – by goalkeeper Niklas Landin, THW beat Füchse Berlin 36:29 last weekend, almost bridging the gap to the table leader. Bucuresti did not play last weekend
I expect a great Champions League evening, just like we are used to in the Wunderino Arena. We will not let ourselves be blinded by the first leg victory and will also play for victory on Wednesday, because our dream is the quarter-finals. There will be no resting, instead we want to extend our lead.
It's a difficult game, of course. They took good advantage in Bucharest. It's practically impossible to pass the play-offs. But I want to change our image, I would like to do a good game in Kiel, because it's an amazing place also. We can play better handball then we did in the first game and this is our goal.
MOTW: HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Orlen Wisla Plock (POL) – first leg 32:32
Wednesday 29 March, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV
- the first leg of the confrontation between the two teams resulted in a draw last Wednesday in Poland (32:32)
- in a very open game, Nantes’ Valero Rivera was elemental for his team, scoring 10 goals out of 10 shots
- out of the three confrontations between the two teams in European competitions, last week was the first time Plock did not lose against Nantes, after two defeats in 2017/18
- last week’s game was Plock’s second-best offensive performance in the Champions League this season, only topped by the 33 goals the Polish side scored against Paris in the group phase
- the winner of this tie will face SC Magdeburg in the quarter-finals
- last weekend, Nantes tied 33:33 with Toulouse while Wisla Plock remained undefeated in the Polish league, winning in Kalisz (30:26)
It will be a really tough game and if we want to win we each need to play at our best. The game will be like a war but what I’m sure about is that we are going to give all we've got.
Telekom Veszprém HC (HUN) vs OTP Bank-PICK Szeged (HUN) – first leg 36:23
Thursday 30 March, 18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV
- the first leg was a complete disaster for Szeged – they needed 10 minutes to score their first goal, scored only seven times in the first half and finally conceded the biggest home defeat in the Champions League, 23:36
- the home side are close to their 21st quarter-final participation in the Champions League, set to face Industria Kielce; Szeged are close to their third straight elimination in the play-offs
- Slovenian right wing Gasper Marguc was the outstanding player in the first leg, netting 11 times for Veszprém
- since the implementation of the EHF FINAL4 format in 2009/10, the biggest deficit which was turned around in the knock-out stage was 11 goals by Füchse Berlin in the 2011/12 quarter-finals against Ademar León
- in the Hungarian league, Szeged now are one point ahead of Veszprém, as they won their last match against Tatabanya, 33:31. Their rivals unexpectedly drew 29:29 with NEKA
We just won the first half of this clash. We are motivated to keep it and win again. We would like to enjoy this match, but we know that it will be a tough. I think they will come to Veszprém full motivated and with a lot of power. For us it will be a little bit difficult because in Szeged we won easier than we thought, thus we need to stay calm and focused during the whole match.
GOG (DEN) vs Aalborg Handbold (DEN) - first leg 28:30
Thursday 30 March, 20:45 CEST, live on EHFTV
- last Thursday, despite missing many key players, Aalborg managed to win the first leg at home (30:28)
- Marinus Munk was elemental for Aalborg, netting six for his first ever EHF Champions League game
- Simon Pytlick and Emil Madsen, who respectively scored eight and nine goals in the first leg, still feature among the top five best scorers of the Champions League
- out of the five duels the two sides have already played this season, GOG only won one, in the Danish Cup quarter-finals (41:39)
- the eventual winners of this play-off clash are set to face record champions Barça in the quarter-finals
- GOG and Aalborg remain tied at the top of the Danish league after they both won last weekend, against Skanderborg (39:34) and Holstebro (33:26) respectively
Photos © Jerzy Stankowski Spojrzenia, Henrik Hansen
It is now or never. After an incredible game at home with our fans supporting us we got a good foundation before the return game. Once again a believe that it will be a very close match where the two goal lead can be really important and decisive for us. We will bring all we have got into this game to go to the quarter finals.